Not every company can claim that they've enjoyed 33 years in business with most of the founders still working. Yet Radley Yeldar is one such company.

The Drum Network caught up with its managing director Andrew Gorman to find out how the agency has stayed ahead of the curve, why cultivating a culture of belief is so important and the importance of people in advertising.

Radley Yeldar is in its 33rd year of being in business. What sets Radley Yeldar apart?

One of the biggest things that defines us is that a lot of the people who established the business over 30 years ago are still here. That’s really significant: it means we’ve retained the same entrepreneurial spirit we started with. That spirit has given us the freedom to flex and respond to changing times, and to build our open, creative culture. Those are the things make us, us.

Over those 30-plus years that same spirit has seen us grow to more than 220 people serving over 100 global clients. We’ve gathered a wonderful collection of specialists – ranging from UX professionals and web developers to creative designers and videographers – who all work together in collaborative, joined-up teams.

However, unlike many of our creative agency peers, our roots are in annual reporting. We’ve helped some of the world’s biggest, most complex businesses – and some of the most interesting and innovative start-ups – tell their corporate stories for three decades. And that has given us a unique perspective.

We’ve got to really understand what business (as a whole) needs. We’ve amassed 30 or so years of insights into how different businesses, across a variety of sectors, have faced up to their challenges and met the needs of their stakeholders. Or haven’t. We’ve seen at close quarters the effect great leadership, or a killer strategy, can have on the long-term success of a company and, crucially, how powerful the role of communications can be in building lasting bridges with stakeholders.

So we take the utmost care in making sure our work actually works. Whether it’s an annual report, a corporate website build, an employee or customer experience campaign, launching a new brand or even developing a sustainability strategy, we are always conscious of how important ‘getting it right’ is for our clients.

As the world changes around us, it’s clear effective communications needs to be both inspiring and true. With a deeper understanding of our clients in our back pocket, our work blends evidenced thinking and stand out creative to help them achieve their strategic objectives. And, increasingly, that objective is belief.

How do you work when creating and activating belief for your clients?

In an era in which many of society’s relationships appear to be breaking, businesses have been hit. Tax scandals. Regulation breaches. Misuse of employees, the environment and data – a perfect storm is gathering to create a crisis of belief in the value business offers to the world around us.

And it’s starting to count. We’re seeing a dramatic redefinition of our expectations of brands and organisations, as seen in our recently commissioned ‘Belief in business: state of the nation’ research. Nearly two thirds of us say we’ll now remove our custom from a business we don’t believe in. Half of us will refuse to work for such a company, and 40% will withdraw investments.

The flip side of the coin is that there’s a strong desire for change. Four out of five of us (78%) think business is well-placed to lead in society. To capture support, companies now have to play a role in creating the world we all want to live in.

So, what creates belief? We believe in a business when we’re moved by what it stands for, understand where it wants to go, and can see how it will get there. More broadly, our research reveals five more specific things that, beyond offering good products and services, build this kind of emotional investment:

  • creating a rewarding workplace for happy employees;
  • being open to questions and sharing information transparently;
  • delivering consistent and personalised experience;
  • committing to ongoing self-improvement and ‘leaving behind a better society’. And, finally,
  • a willingness to accept short-term setbacks in the pursuit of long-term benefits.

Our work starts with the relationship: understanding our client, their objectives, and the kind of belief they need to generate. From this we get under the skin of the audiences that matter most, unpicking who they are and what makes them tick. The hardest yards come in pulling all those strands together to generate creative communications that blend ‘inspiring and true’ to change opinions and drive new behaviours.

How have RY’s goals changed, if at all, throughout the course of the company’s history?

We’ve always aimed to deliver standout work that inspires change, and it has always been underpinned a focus on truth.

But the world hasn’t stood still over that time, and neither have we. We’ve adapted to the changing environment around us, flexing our services, skills, and how we talk about them. It’s no surprise that over the last ten years we’ve added specialist teams providing purpose, vision, values, sustainability strategy and employee experience consultancy to clients looking to solve new and complex problems.

Our recent work on our vision (‘to help create a world that believes in business’) saw us embark on 12 months of internal interviews, workshops, outside research, testing and refining. The result – our focus on belief – is a reflection of how, in a world being redefined by technology and changing social relationships, communications need to evolve. We’re excited about ‘belief’ – it will be around to guide us for many years to come.

 

What effect has the evolution of social and digital media had on your business?

We’ve been working in the digital space for two of our three decades of agency history.

We’re known for the corporate websites we build (with the recent accolade of Bowen Craggs’ No1 Corporate Website still making us smile) as well as the digital engagement campaigns we deliver for clients including Kaspersky Lab and ViiV Healthcare. Growth in these areas will be vital to our continued success.

We’ve never locked digital into siloes – it’s integral to everything we do. Take reporting, for example, where we’re leading digital first reporting for the likes of Vodafone and Nationwide. Elsewhere digital specialists work hand-in-hand with our employee engagement teams to redefine how businesses such as BP and Capita communicate with their people.

But digital and social media have totally rewritten how we all engage with the world around us. Ours is a ‘connected’ existence and, as we edge further into the experience’s economy, even the smallest interactions take on increased significance. Without sophisticated approaches to digital and social, businesses can’t hope to live up to the latest expectations on openness and honesty.

 

What do you expect Radley Yeldar to focus on in the next five years?

Quite simply we want to be recognised as the agency that’s helping to put the belief back in business.

Across Europe and beyond, we’ll emphatically deliver communication that works and that has measurable impact on a business’ success.

But our focus will also be on our people. Talented people can choose where they go, which is why we push to be the best place to work, where the best work gets done. It’s how we create great outcomes for our clients, and each other.

We want everyone in the agency - whatever their role and wherever they’re based - to take a stake in continuing to refresh and build a successful agency doing meaningful work. Watch this space.

 

This interview originally appeared in The Drum. To read it, click here.

Back to top